Claudio Pizarro, the Bundesliga’s record foreign goalscorer, has scored more times against Hamburg than any other team. Ahead of Sunday’s Nordderby, the veteran Werder Bremen striker is hoping that he can prove decisive yet again.
For 21 years, Pizarro has been causing anguish to opposition defences. Now in his fourth spell at Bremen, he was asked last month what he liked most about football.
“Everything really,” he told local paper Kreiszeitung. “The goals. The victories. The fans. The friendships. The unity you get on the pitch.”
Watch: EA Sports' FIFA 17 predicts the Nordderby
Pizarro turned 38 last October but in case anyone thought he was no longer a threat, the Peruvian came off the bench to grab a late equaliser in Bremen’s 1-1 draw at Bayer Leverkusen last month. Somewhat surprisingly, given he had netted 14 times last term, it was Pizarro’s first goal of the season. It was also one of his more fortuitous strikes – the ball deflected in off his hip – and came just two minutes after he had come on.
The ex-Peru international obviously enjoys playing at the BayArena. A little over a year previously he had become the oldest player to score three goals in a Bundesliga game while leading his side to a 4-1 victory. Following this year’s game, Pizarro said it was “very important” to end his goal drought this season by scoring his 191st Bundesliga goal on his 200th league appearance for the Green-Whites.
Pizarro is likely to start on the bench again on Sunday but he is fully aware of the damage he has done to the visitors over the years. “I hope that HSV are afraid,” he told German press agency SID this week.
As well as being frightened, Hamburg fans probably have nightmares about Pizarro in the week before their team plays his. In 27 games for Bremen and Bayern, the wily marksman has scored 19 goals against the Red Shorts. Right foot, left foot, headers and free-kicks, backheels and overhead kicks. You name it and Pizarro has more than likely done it against Hamburg.
The first of his strikes, like so many throughout his career, was spectacular. He smashed a free-kick home in February 2001, one of two goals he got as the home side took the bragging rights in a 3-1 success.
If anything, things got worse for Hamburg when Pizarro left for Bavaria and it will certainly be hard for them to erase the memory of a 9-2 defeat in Munich in March 2013. Hamburg’s bogey man proved the tormentor-in-chief that day, scoring four goals himself and setting up two more. Then, in May 2014, he was on target with a brilliant overhead kick during a 4-1 win for Bayern – a result that almost pushed Hamburg to relegation.
Watch: Hamburg 2-2 Bremen - highlights
Following his return to Bremen last season, Pizarro’s goals helped save the club from the drop. But he was stifled in two derby matches as his favourite victims turned the tables and did the double over their neighbours. In the second match last April, with the relegation battle heating up, he had a penalty saved and saw an injury-time header flash wide in a 2-1 defeat.
Just three points separate the teams going into this weekend’s Nordderby but Bremen’s rejuvenation under Alexander Nouri has suddenly led to talk about them earning an unlikely European place. As for Pizarro, he is simply delighted that he can still play a role.
“I’ve always said - football is my love,” he told Kreiszeitung. “My body will tell me sometime that I can't play anymore. But the head will always want me to take to the pitch."
Pizarro also said that the next few matches would be decisive in determining his future. A 20th goal against Hamburg could confirm it lies in Green and White.